Monday, February 22, 2010

Restoring the Naos of Amenemhat I (Zahi Hawass)

The issue of returning stolen artefacts to Egypt is very important to me. I have worked for years on returning pieces that were illegally taken from Egypt, and there are many great institutions that support and assist me in my quest. Recently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York brought a piece of a naos back to Egypt, and we replaced it in its original location in Karnak Temple.

In Karnak is a temple dedicated to the god Ptah. Inside this temple there is a naos built by the Middle Kingdom pharaoh, Amenemhat I. A piece of it, weighing 27 kilograms, was removed around the turn of the 20th century. Auguste Mariette photographed it at the end of the 19th century, but a photograph taken by French Egyptologist Georges Legrain shows the piece was missing in 1902.

The matter remained unresolved until the piece was offered to the Metropolitan Museum in New York by an antiquities collector, who claimed to have bought the piece in the 1970s. The Met officials recognized where the piece must have come from, and acquired it, thinking to bring it back to Egypt. My friends at the Museum did not tell me at first what they were planning, but they convinced the collector to let them have it. The museum curator brought the naos piece to Egypt and we kept it in the Cairo Museum.

Recently we brought the piece to Luxor and installed it in its original location, with the press watching.

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